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Tour Overview: Northern Spain, or Green Spain as it is sometimes referred to, offers some of the most picturesque landscapes of the Iberian Peninsula. The topography ranges from lush green valleys to dramatic coastlines with steep mountain cliffs plunging into the sea. Colorful seaside towns dot the vast coastal area from Galicia east through Asturias and Cantabria to the Basque Country. Unique to the rest of Spain, these regions remained almost untouched by Moorish culture by their remote location and climate allowing for long lasting cultural preservation. Its diversity is particularly evident with the Celtic sounds of Galicia’s bagpipes and their Gallego dialect to the Basque regions’ Euskera idioma, considered the oldest living language in Europe. Our tour begins in Santiago de Compostela, the iconic finale to the famous Christian Way of St. James and considered the third-most important pilgrimage site after Rome and Jerusalem. South of Santiago we’ll board a sailing vessel for a trip downriver and visit a fortified winery in Cambados. On the border between Galicia and Asturias we stop in the seaside town of Ribadeo where we’ll discover the many Indiano mansions. Oviedo offers itself as a cultural capital with Asturian cheese and cider houses. Cantabria is a lush, green coastal region with a mountainous backdrop and pretty seaside villages. Bilbao is one of the planet’s loveliest towns and boasts two world class museums – the Guggenheim and the Bellas Artes. In La Rioja we’ll experience a day with Spain’s best wines. Our trip finishes with two spectacular beach towns – San Sebastian and Biarritz.
Day 1 :
When the Apostle St. James was beheaded in Jerusalem his body was to be thrown to the lions. Instead, according to legend, he was rescued by disciples who brought his body brought to Spain where it is now buried inside Santiago de Compostela’s cathedral crypt. Most pilgrims begin El Camino, the spiritual walk, in France’s Saint Jean Pied de Port and travel west across northern Spain to Santiago
Arrival to Santiago airport, where you will be transferred to one of the most well-known Paradors in all of Spain, the former hospital of the pilgrims, El Parador de Santiago (3 nights). From the hotel balcony overlooking the famous Praza Obradoiro, you’ll witness pilgrims conclude their trek by touching the scallop shell commemorating the end of their journey.
At 6:30 we meet in the cloister for a welcome drink and orientation meeting, followed by a short guided tour of the hotel where we will learn its rich history and experience a decadent introduction to Galician cuisine in the former hotel stables.
Day 2 :
This morning begins with an introduction to the history of Santiago in Obradorio Square followed by a journey through the maze-like stone paved streets of the casco antiguo. Visits include the University Fonseca and Santiago’s most important monument, the cathedral, where pilgrims perform the ritual of embracing the statue of St. James as they exit the tomb.
Afternoon free. This evening’s included dinner will delight your senses with a creative Galician fusion tasting at a Michelin starred restaurant!
Day 3 :
Morning departure for a sailing trip on an historical schooner through the Ria Arousa Estuary. Mussels, tapas and on-board refreshments will accompany an explanation of Galicia’s importance to Spain’s seafood industry and mussel cultivation.
Cambados, the center of Albariño wine production, is a delightful Galician town with granite homes, pleasant streets lined with shops, restaurants, bars and wine merchants. Located on the grand square is the 17th century fortified Palacio de Fefiñanes which has been producing wines since 1904. We’ll have a midday guided visit here followed by an ample tasting of their Albariño.
Lunch on your own in Cambados. Late afternoon return to Santiago. Evening free.
Day 4 :
Ribadeo is best known for its picturesque La Pancha lighthouse and the Playa de las Catedrais, considered one of the most beautiful stretches of sand on the Galician coast. Our visit to the historical quarter includes the many colorful mansions built by Indianos, emigrants to the Americas who returned to Spain wealthy in the late 19th and 20th centuries. The notable Tower of Moreno was designed by a disciple of Antonio Gaudi, Argentine architect Julian Garcia Nuñez.
Included lunch at a portside restaurant.
Prior to arriving to Oviedo we’ll visit the pre Romanesque 9th century Santa Maria Naranco and San Miguel de Lillo churches, UNESCO World Heritage sites. Santa Maria was originally constructed in 848 as a recreational palace for the King of Asturias.
Our lodging for the next two nights is the Baroque style Hotel De La Reconquista which has been hosting Asturian nobility and Spanish royals for over 500 years.
Evening on your own.
Day 5 :
Oviedo, given the role as the Principality of Asturias is the administrative, economic, and judicial center of the region and is also home to the region’s largest university. Each year the Princess of Asturias Foundation awards those in the fields of the sciences, technology, arts and letters.
Oviedo is a town made for walking, being home to one of Spain’s first pedestrinization movements. In recovering the streets for its citizens and visitors, parking garages were placed underground and car access was forbidden inside the old walls. Oviedo’s successful transformation now serves as an example for cities aspiring to make similar changes in Spain.
Our morning tour begins with a walk through the historic district where we can admire the influence of art noveau architecture and the over 130 statues placed throughout the city – a quirky artistic touch with characters from Spain’s literary past as well as those of modern figures.
The 14th century Gothic cathedral, dedicated to San Salvador, is Oviedo’s most visited monument and especially significant for it’s well known Shroud of Oviedo.
The morning concludes with an Asturian cheese tasting. Known as the land of the cheeses Asturias produces more than 100 varietals and is known throughout the world for this culinary wonder.
Day 6 :
Morning departure for the colorful Cantabrian Villages. Our first stop is Comillas. We’ll walk through the Plaza del Corro de Campios, the oldest part of town surrounded by ancestral mansions and have a guided tour of El Capricho, a 19th century Art Nouveau creation by well-known Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, and one of only three of Gaudi’s designs found outside of Barcelona. Free time and lunch on your own.
Often referred to as the “prettiest village in Spain” Santillana del Mar is a collection of 15th-17th century stone houses.
Afternoon arrival to Bilbao where our lodging will be the Gran Hotel Domine situated on the Nervion estuary and across from the Guggenheim museum. (3 nights)
Day 7 :
Situated on the Bay of Biscay and bordering France to the east, Spanish Basque country is divided into 3 provinces, Vizcaya, Alava, and Guipuzcoa. While the origins of the Basque people are unknown, they are considered the oldest pre-indo European ethnic group on the Iberian Peninsula. Their remote mountain location allowed for its inhabitants to preserve their native language Euskera and other distinct traditions for centuries up until present times.
The morning tour begins just in front of the hotel where we can observe what some now refer to as the Bilbao effect. A term coined to describe the transformation of Bilbao’s depressing industrial port into an inviting green space with one major attraction, Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum. While the museum’s contents and collections are of importance, more noticeable is the exterior with its giant mirrored steel space ship like twists and turns. The museum has promoted a buzz of activity where outdoor cafes decorate the sidewalks, musicians perform and pedestrians stroll along the footpaths.
Stepping away from modernism we go back in time with a visit to the Casco Viejo, the old quarter situated on the right bank of the river and the 19th century boulevards of the Ensanche, Bilbao’s business district situated on the left bank.
Afternoon visit to the Guggenheim. Evening dinner included.
Day 8 :
Guernica was the inspiration for Pablo Picassos’ most well known painting depicting the horrific turn of events on Monday April 26, 1937 when German and Italian war planes bombed a farmers market killing hundreds. Hilter wanted to experiment with a new war strategy and was given the opportunity when Franco, frustrated by the Basque resistance, allowed the bombing as a test run. The short stop consists of a visit to the Basque General Assembly House.
Bermeo is one of the most important fishing villages on the Basque coastline. It features an old port, colorful homes and a lovely park surrounded by bars and restaurants. Inside the medieval Ercilla Tower is housed the wonderful multi-media Fishermen Museum where we spend part of our morning. The museum details the work, customs and lifestyle of the fishermen and their families, their fishing techniques, how they constructed their boats and made their nets.
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is a picturesque small island on the Bay of Biscay that is connected to the mainland by a stone bridge and 241 steps that we are not going to climb. On the island is a church that was originally built in the 9th or 10th centuries. We’ll have lunch at a great restaurant overlooking the island.
Late afternoon visit to the not-to-be-missed Bellas Artes Museum in Bilbao, featuring works by Goya, El Greco and Gauguin.
Dinner on your own
Day 9 :
This morning we embark on an adventure into La Rioja, Spain’s most acclaimed wine region. Situated along the Ebro River and protected from the elements by the Cantabrian mountains, the clay and limestone soil has produced vineyards that have thrived here since Roman times. The most common grape varietal is the tempranillo and the garnacha. Rioja wines can be red, white, rose and are classified as Riojas, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva depending on their age.
The Vivanco Wine Museum– An introduction to La Rioja begins this morning with a stop at this world famous museum. A 4,000 square meters facility dedicated to the 8,000 year relationship between man and wine. Travel through time following the history of wine production through this interactive museum and finish off the visit with a glass of Tempranillo.
LaGuardia is perhaps the most attractive village in La Rioja. It’s name, meaning “the guard”, came about for its promontory location in watching for potential invaders from the North. We’ll stop in a 17th century palace for a tour of their wine cellar, an exquisite tasting and lunch. Then a short walk following the walls of the 8th century village for a photo op of the Ebro river and surrounding vineyards.
Afternoon arrival to the luxury Hotel Maria Cristina in San Sebastian. (3 nights). Dinner on your own. We recommend one of the many Michelin-starred restaurants or, more simply, an evening of pintxos in the old town.
Day 10 :
San Sebastian, called Donastia in Euskera has been the long time favorite vacation spot for Spanish Royalty. The city gained its notoriety in the 17th century when doctors thought the salt sea waters would help cure Queen Isabel II from a skin ailment and she began making frequent visits to the city. Now it is a lively resort town scattered with pintxo bars and swanky hotels.
The city is divided into four districts or “barrios” and each district has its own personality. Our morning guided tour takes us through the Area Romantica, the commercial and shopping district with its elegant 19th century architecture and La Parte Vieja, the old fishing village. Two important churches are found within the old town, the Church of Santa Maria and the Church of San Vicente, the oldest building in San Sebastian.
Afternoon on your own to enjoy the 1.5 kilometer Concha Beach and walk to the Comb of the Wind, the iron sculptures located at the end of Santa Clara Beach.
Pintxos are the Basque version of tapas, only better. Evening free to participate in local culture by visiting the old town packed with bars serving the most abundant collection of delicious pintxos in all of Basque Country!
Day 11 :
The final excursion of our tour takes us across the French border to Biarritz, famous as an elegant 19th century beach resort for European and Russian nobility. Sporting 6 km of sandy beaches, in recent times, it has been home to Europe’s best surfing. Today it is a delightful mix of grand houses, palatial structures – notably the Hotel du Palais and the Casino Municipal – and a relaxed surf scene. A stroll through the old port, where whaling ships once docked, and down the Rue du Port-Vieux will lead to restaurants, bars and shops.
Farewell dinner in San Sebastian
Day 12 :
Morning transfers at scheduled times to Bilbao (BIO) and San Sebastian (EAS) airports
Payment Terms & Methods :
* Some Advance Percentage of total booking amount
* Airfare/Transport fare to be paid full at one time in advance.
Cancellation & Refund Policy :
* Upon cancellation, refund will be made after deducting the Retention Amount.
* Retention Amount varies as per the number of days left before your package start date.
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